One of the usual ploys used to domesticate the teachings of Jesus about non-violence is to point to a couple of texts which might suggest Jesus was perhaps not quite as much like Gandhi (or vice versa) as many have believed. Wendell Berry in his recent book Blessed are the Peacemakers deals succinctly with these texts, and in devastating fashion. He refers to “the two passages that loose interpreters might interpret as justifying war: Matthew 10.34-37 and Luke 22.35-38”. He then retorts– “In both these passages Christ is using the sword as a metaphor for the divisions He foresaw as resulting from His teaching and influence. If belligerent Christians wish to understand these passages literally, then they must explain why Christ speaks in the first passage of ‘a’ sword, and in the second of ‘two swords’. He clearly was not raising an army.” (p. 5). As Berry goes on to say there are many passages in the Gospels which make clear the two just referred to can’t possibly be taken literally and do justice to all these other passages, including the entire Sermon on the Mount.
While we are on passages, it is worth point out that the use of force is one thing, the use of violence against one’s fellow human beings is another. It is certainly true that Jesus used force in his action in the Temple, sometimes quaintly called his Temple tantrum 🙂 It will be noted that no animals were harmed in the making of this prophetic sign act in the temple, so far as we know, and no money disappeared in the hands of Jesus or his followers. The use of force is one thing, the use of violence and especially lethal violence, violence with intent to do serious bodily harm or kill, is another. It is the latter that absolutely nothing in the teachings of Jesus sanctions, and much in his teaching completely rejects.